Airheads (1994) – A Review


A review of the 1994 comedy Airheads, starring Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler, Joe Mantegna, Michael McKean and Ernie Hudson – a rock band break into a radio station to get their music played on the air

Three wanna-be rockers (Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler) are finding no success and their dreamed of ‘big break’ doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to happen. Desperation finally hits them. They arm themselves with water guns and set out to force the local rock station to play their demo tape on the air. 

Being threatened by these three headbangers, the manager and DJ willfully agree to play their song over their airwaves. There’s just one thing though – this band forgot their demo tape. 

Now, they must wait for the cops to find Fraser’s angry girlfriend and have her bring the tape to the station. Complications and comedy begin to escalate as an ever-growing, enthusiastic rock-loving crowd surrounds the station cheering this band on.

As the cops try to control all the music lovers and follow through on all the rockers outlandish demands (where can they possibly get ahold of a naked photo of Be a Arthur???) It’s learned the popular L.A. rock station is going to switch to an easy listening format! The DJ and station manager are at each others throats. There’s also a hapless salesman loose in the station, trying to relay cops information about this rock band. 

Will these three metal heads ever get their song on the air and get that coveted music contract they’ve been dreaming of?

Brendan-Fraser-Airheads-1994--cult-comedyAirheads is an old fashioned goofy, silly, straight forward comedy. It’s not trying to be anything other than that. It sets out to score some laughs with a batch of thick-headed characters, a zany predicament and the craziness that grows out of it. And Airheads delivers on that promise.

Fraser, Buscemi and Sandler are the members of the rock band The Lone Rangers – a name that becomes a running joke throughout the movie.

Airheads came earlier in Fraser, Buscemi and Sandler’s careers – and they’re all good as this trio of doofuses. They’re Spicolli/’Bill and Ted’ type of characters. Essentially they’re good guys, but can be quite dim.

They work well off each other and embrace their kooky characters. They play the exaggerated comedy the film needs and are a pretty likable bunch of rocking dudes. I’ve never been a Sandler fan, so his usual type of humor grates on me, but in Airheads his schtick doesn’t become such an annoyance as it would become when he would be the sole lead in his later comedies. He’s sort of the third fiddle in this. I actually don’t mind him in this movie – I don’t say that too often!

Airheads was director Michael Lehmann’s film following the big-budget and ill received Hudson Hawk.  It’s much more successful in knowing what it wants to be and following through on it. The cast are given enough room to improvise and work off each other to make the comedy flow.

Airheads-1994-cult-comedy-Michael-McKean-Joe-Mantegna-Adam-Sandler-Steve-Buscemi-Despite being set in mostly the cramped rooms of the radio station the cast manage laughs with their interactions, one-liners and trying to control the growing situation. There’s enough subplots going on to fill the film with enough jokes, funny scenes and running jokes to make it an entertaining to watch.  

The cast is quite impressive for such a lowbrow comedy – along with the trio of Airheads, there’s – Michael McKean, Joe Mantegna, Amy Locane, Michael Richards, Ernie Hudson, David Arquette, Nina Siemaszko, Judd Nelson, Marshall Bell, Reg E Cathey and Chris Farley. – along with appearances by Harold Ramis, Kurt Loder and the voice of Mike Judge. 

Mantegna is a stand out as the laid back DJ who’s heart belongs to rock and roll and begins to appreciate this band and the rebellious message they’re sending to their growing followers. When he learns the station will be switching formats to soft rock, Mantegna snaps, wants to kill station manager McKean, who is basically one of the evil ‘suits’ that the rockers are fighting against.

Airheads never really goes the route of lowbrow humor, something that so many comedies in recent years go for.  Sure, there’s some sex, a few colorful words, but the movie plays surprisingly quaint in comparison to comedies today. And you know what, it plays just fine!

One funny thing watching Airheads is seeing Fox Plaza (aka the Nakatomi building in the outside scenes). It’s hard not to notice it standing in all its distinctive glory in the plaza where the film was shot. Considering Richards spends most of the movie crawling around in air ducts ala John McClane, it’s almost like there’s some intentional Die Hard spoofing going on.

Airheads-1994-cult-comedyOk, Airheads is not a deep movie at all, but it provides exactly what you’re hoping to get when you sit down to watch it. That’s what you want from a little, goofy, frivolous comedy. Just give us some laughs, funny scenes and a few one-liners we can take away from it and use to reference the movie in a shorthand way. It’s a fun time!

“Well, there’s three of you. You’re not exactly lone. Shouldn’t you be the Three Rangers?” 

The trailer – it’s basically an abridged version of the entire story. It certainly gives you an idea of what kind of comedy you’ll get from it.

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